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People with kidney failure will often need to take many drugs to help keep them healthy. This page lists some of the drugs that are commonly taken and a few side effects.


Alfacalcidol is a vitamin D capsule. It is given to increase your blood calcium level keep it normal. Over time this helps to keep your bones healthy. It is usually taken once a day in the morning. Side effects can include feeling sick. If this occurs, try taking it with food. Liquid drops are available if you have trouble swallowing, or prefer to avoid capsules that contain gelatin, for example if you are a vegetarian.


Aspirin is a tablet given to help thin your blood and stop your dialysis lines or fistula becoming blocked. Some people also take apsirin for heart problems. It is normally taken once a day in the morning. Aspirin may irritate your stomach or cause indigestion. This can be reduced by taking the tablet with food and dissolving it in water before swallowing.


Chlorpheniramine belongs to a group of medicines called antihistamines. They are used to reduce itching that can happen as chemicals build-up in your body. There are several types available. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness. If you feel drowsy, do not drive or operate machinery. Chlorpheniramine (Piriton) and other antihistamines can be bought from your local pharmacy. Ensure you do not take twice the recommended dose.


Ranitidine helps to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach, to prevent acid indigestion or problems with stomach ulcers. It is usually taken once or twice a day. Possible side effects include tiredness, headaches and dizziness.


Ferrous sulphate is an iron tablet which can be taken to try and reduce anaemia. It is often taken three times a day. If you are taking phosphate binders or some antibiotics you should try and split the doses by one hour. Side effects include constipation, diarrhoea or feeling sick. You may notice your stools or urine becoming a darker colour, this is normal and nothing to worry about.


Lactulose and senna and given to relieve constipation. Senna is usually taken in the evening. Lactulose can be taken twice a day. They are best taken twice a day and may take a day or so to be effective. Side effects can include belching and stomach cramps.


These reduce the amount of acid in your stomach, prevent indigestion or problems with stomach ulcers. Lansoprazole should be taken first thing in the morning, before breakfast. Omeprazole can be taken in the morning or in the evening. Side effects include diarrhoea and feeling sick.


These help to reduce cholesterol levels. The tablets should be taken at bedtime. Possible side effects include headaches, feeling sick and muscle pain. If you suffer from muscle pain you should tell your doctor. 

Sick Day Guidance When you are unwell with: 

1) Vomiting or diarrhoea

2) Fevers, sweats or shaking 

You should temporarily stop taking the following medications to reduce your chance of being admitted to hospital:

  • Diuretics –. Bendroflumethiazide, furosemide, indapamide, spironolactone
  • ACE Inhibitors – Medicine names ending in “pril” e.g. lisinopril, perindopril, Ramipril • Angiotensin receptor blockers – Medicine names ending in “sartan” e.g. candesartan, losartan, valsartan
  • Metformin – A medication used for diabetes
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain killers, e.g. diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen 

You should restart any of the above medications that you have stopped when you are well. This is after 24-48 hours of eating and drinking normally. If you are unsure of whether to stop a medication, please contact your pharmacist, GP or specialist nurse.

Reviewed May 2022
Next review due May 2025

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The National Kidney Federation cannot accept responsibility for the information provided. The above is for guidance only. Patients are advised to seek further information from their own doctor.